The pilgrim way

Yet again, I find myself packing up my room and trying to fit my life into a 20kg and a 10 kg suitcase! Not an easy task considering my Bible alone weighs 2.5kg! As I have begun clearing out and filtering through the various bits and pieces that I have accumulated over the years, many thoughts have been flittering through my mind. A strange image comes to my mind: the eye of the needle!

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says to the disciples: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
The eye-of-the-needle analogy is an example of Jesus’ common tactic of throwing rhetorical curve balls at his disciples. There is a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle through which a camel could not pass unless it stooped and first had all its baggage first removed. After dark, when the main gates were shut, travellers or merchants would have to use this smaller gate, through which the camel could only enter unencumbered and crawling on its knees!  Pope Benedict XVI’s recently issued a Motu Propria for the Year of Faith which will begin in October 2012. The title is ‘Porta Fidei’, or the Door of Faith. The same thoughts came to me as I read through this text. Am I like the camel who needs to have everything unloaded in order to pass through? What is blocking me from passing through the door of faith?  Or what am I holding on to with a vice like grip that maybe I should let go of?

But now from camels to Mary Poppins! People who know me know I like to be prepared for the unexpected.  My handbag tends to have everything: a sewing kit, first aid kit, chocolate/sweets, Bible, numerous Rosary beads and holy medals to hand out, pen, paper, stamps…the list goes on! In school, I was known as Mary Poppins, a nickname which my junior companions resurrected, though updating it to Sr. Mary Poppins! I always envied people who could travel light without worrying ‘what if I need ‘X’ or ‘what if I need Y’.

At another level, all of us carry baggage: physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, religious. For some of us, it’s like being at the airport watching the same old baggage of our life going around and around again on that conveyor belt which never seems to find ours. We keep replaying the hurts and the pain and we keep ourselves from the hope that inspires a life that matters. And we just keep feeding our resentment and our anger and our depression, our dark side, and that only hurts us.

Or else maybe you're carrying a backpack full of stress and pressure. When you're carrying around a lot of emotional and spiritual baggage, it can really weigh you down - and make it very hard for you to fly or reach your destination. This year in particular, I became aware and followed the journeys  of a few people who travelled the famous ‘Camino de Compostela’.  The Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Way of St James) is a journey of the body, mind and spirit that millions of pilgrims have completed over thousands of years. At it's most fundamental level, it is basically a long walk. Ultimately it is an analogy for life itself! At deeper levels, it becomes a spiritual journey; it is certainly a wandering through a 1,200-year long cultural, spiritual and religious history, a history that will come alive as you traverse it; it is a commingling of kindred souls in a vast community of pilgrims, a strange community that is not fixed in space but flows ever westward toward Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Many people choose to walk it carrying the basic necessities. The lighter load makes surely makes the journey a little easier.
In Porta Fidei, the Pope reminds us that ‘faith is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, every anew, the marvels that God works for us’. This is a little gem that I put into my pilgrim purse as I set off to Canada. It is a time of new opportunities, to discover new gifts and experiences, to meet others upon the pilgrim way. Caritas Christi urget nos!


  1. Excellent text, Sr. Mary Louise Poppins! I've loved it.
    In fact, every single day we have to review our baggage and, like St. Paul advise us, "do test everything — hold onto what is good". This way, we can "in everything give thanks" and "always be joyful" (cf. 1Th 5, 18.16).
    Life is simple because God is simple.
    Let's simply live and go on!


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